By The Rogue Rooster
In life, people are often faced with challenges and shortcomings that can destroy confidence and self-esteem, but for Jamara Nowell, it can be a blessing, and an example of how happiness is a choice; that no matter how tough life can be, you can still keep a smile and brighten any room you enter. “You have to understand that happiness is a choice, regardless of the situation,” she says.
At the age of 20, Nowell was diagnosed with Adult Stills, or what she calls “Arthritis on crack,” as her joints are now under constant attack by her own immune system, which has been rewired to see cartilage as foreign bodies; an infection. To keep the condition from getting worse, she now tries to maintain a calm and happy environment. “Stress is a big thing that causes flare-ups,” she says.
Growing up, Jamara was very athletic, involving herself in various school sports and events. After her diagnosis and experience with Adult Stills, however, her life has taken a completely different road. “The biggest hurdle has really been the control factor of losing my ability to be able to be so active; the way that I was,” she says. “I’ve really become a whole completely new person, because I was so active before, and sports was such a big part of my life. Now it’s more—I can watch, but I can’t play—and that’s been…a big kind of change for me.”
To read more about Jamara’s experience with Adult Stills, see “Arthritis on Crack.”
Nevertheless, she still finds a way to stay positive and keep a smile on her face as much as she can. Instead of succumbing to her illness and giving up, she has chosen to face the day—and her condition—with her head high. To do so, Jamara decided to sit down to really analyze her new situation. “Ok, these are the cards you’ve been dealt, now how are you going to handle them? You cannot control the majority of things in your life, but you can control how you respond to it,” she would tell herself, and anyone who is facing a new challenge.
Anger, she explains, is not the way to go about it. Though the easier and more common route, it only makes things worse; therefore, Nowell chose to find ways to remain positive. “That was my biggest turning point,” she says. “How am I going to handle this? Because I could handle this poorly, and make the whole thing worse, or I could handle it the best that I possibly can—day to day—and try to make every day a little bit better. When I finally turned that on and stopped being so angry with the situation…I was able to start thinking that way.”
Remaining positive is not an easy task, especially when you may not be 100% in control of your situation, which can complicate matters even more. “It was more the mental challenges,” explains Nowell. “For a while…feeling like there’s this stranger inside my body doing stuff that I’m not telling it to do, and it won’t stop.”
Now, at age 30, Jamara surrounds herself with a close group of loved ones, and reminds herself to keep upbeat. One of her methods is in reference to an unlikely example. “Zebras are known as one of the healthiest animals, because they can turn on and off their adrenaline;” as predators approach or chase, she explains, their flight-or-flight instinct quickly activates, giving them a better chance of escape and survival, and can switch-off the adrenaline just as fast once the danger is clear. “When I heard that, I thought, ‘That’s an interesting mentality,’ and so, for me it has kind of become where I have to keep myself in check—when it comes to stress—and that includes the people in my life,” she says, explaining how her large circle of friends and family has compressed over the years into a tight-nit group of loved ones; those she can count on, and who bring nothing but light to her life.
Zebras aren’t the only example she uses when deciding to remain positive. “I’ve been to Africa, I’ve been to the slums. I’ve seen kids that have no shoes on, [who] are wearing girls’ clothes, because that’s the only clothes that they have…and they’re smiling,” she says, “…Because happiness is a choice.” No matter the circumstances, if you believe yourself to be happy or sad…you are right.
Jamara has taken the positivity and lessons learned from her condition to her daily life, and has even spoken to a panel of doctors, students, and experts in conferences regarding her illness, learning new things about herself, and her new world. Her experiences have even shown her a new hobby and love, “I always knew that I liked art, but I hadn’t pursued it because I was always pursuing sports, and with being sick, I was able to discover that I really like using [special] paint to make ornaments or do wine glasses or just anything.” A skill she now uses to paint RC cars for the YouTube channel RC Militia, which she runs alongside her fiancé, Jeremy Patterson.
If you were to ask her how Adult Still has changed her life, she would tell you that it has become more of a blessing. “I think that who I am today, with that life-changing event…is completely different than who I think I would have been if I wouldn’t have been faced by this,” says Nowell. “My faith, my outlook towards other people…my compassion, and understanding towards certain things I never could before; I’m more proud of who I am today than I think I would’ve been without it…it’s hands down the biggest blessing for me—spiritually, emotionally, and maturely—to grow.”
Even in the toughest of scenarios, there is always reason to stay positive, “Even a bad situation can be looked at as good if you learn something from it; I’ve let go of that desire to dwell upon that ‘I can’t…I like being happy, so I’m going to be happy.”